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German leather shoe brand Caprice offers design-led footwear with its own identity, says Stephen Joseph, UK sales & marketing director
Tell me a bit about how the company started. What was the aim of the label when it was launched?
Caprice was founded in 1990 by Kurt Cölsch and Horst Wortmann, both icons in their respective fields. While Cölsch ran a traditional, German-produced family business from shoe town Pirmasens, around the corner from Peter Kaiser and Kennel & Schmenger, among others, Wortmann became one of Europe's biggest shoe entrepreneurs in under two decades, specialising in the cheaper end of the mass market. Caprice and the Cölsch family were known across Germany for excellent-fitting shoes and their patented shoe innovations. Cölsch and Wortmann joined forces and founded Caprice with the goal of manufacturing high-quality, mid-top end ladies' shoes. The aim was to produce both fashionable and comfortable all-leather footwear that fit, using half-sizes and a variety of slim and wide options. The Caprice brand has since evolved into a Designed & Developed in Pirmasens, taking patented innovation and putting that into classic yet fashionable mother/daughter shoes.
How were the initial products developed, and what was the response?
Caprice bases its logistics in Wortmann, Detmold, close to the German shoe metropolis of Pirmasens. Our headquarters quickly developed into a state-of-the-art research and development centre, where we focus on steadily improving both the service and the range of the brand, as well as on new innovation. The Cölsch family has been responsible for more than three generations for patenting its exclusive Caprice innovations of AntiShoKK, RollTech, BlueTech, AirBag by Caprice, BlueGrip and the most successful Walking “OnAIR” INSOLE. Caprice has rapidly grown into a brand that now sells in 40 countries worldwide, producing more than 3.5 million pairs of shoes, with the fastest-growing markets being the UK, Poland and Russia.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
One of the best selling points about Caprice is our affordability. For an all-leather-comfort-fashion-fit experience, the prices are simply excellent and among the lowest in Europe. Another USP are our profit margins! Despite great prices for the consumer, retailers still make markups of at least 2.55 times the trade price up to more than three times. The important strategy for Caprice in the UK has been to avoid selling to discounters and direct to the public. Very few other brands in 2019 can say this! Caprice is also indie friendly. We predominantly work with independent boutiques and shoe retailers, and we give area exclusivity for proactive customers. However, our patented innovations are perhaps what are really special about us. Both the Walking “OnAIR” INSOLE, which functions like an air conditioner for your feet, and the shock-absorbing “OnAIR” AntiShoKK heel have been tremendous successes for us. Over the past year, we have launched the BLUE INNOVATION line. BLUE GRIP is a newly developed heel and sole construction that increases ground adherence, while BLUE OXYGEN allows fresh air to flow directly into the shoe through the bottom of the sole without letting moisture in – in fact, the outsole is fully waterproof. We work flexibly and aim to exceed the customer demands. Our showroom on London's M25 orbital displays both stock and forward stock that can be made available for appointments. We have no minimum orders and offer next day, free-of-charge delivery from our extensive, in-stock service.
How important is your location and history to the company in its success?
Pirmasens has a long shoe-making tradition that is completely embedded in our Caprice DNA. Comfort and fashion innovation come first. Caprice benefits directly from the network of local suppliers that helps to optimise the development process. A total 70 per cent of the staff are shoe experts, ranging from designers and technicians to leather experts. We even have two dedicated leather buyers who travel around the world in search of the best leathers, visiting some of the finest European tanneries. Each factory has a technician from Pirmasens seven days a week, 365 days of the year, working a two-week shift system before handover to ensure we have someone on the ground constantly monitoring the quality of our products. We have a live video linkup in Pirmasens, where exclusive Caprice partners can tune in anytime, anywhere.
How has the product offering changed, and how would you describe your current collection?
Today, each Caprice collection contains around 200 all-leather styles in different colourways. We have developed into a trend-conscious brand with its own identity, as latest fashion trends influence our designs but do not dominate them. We now have five full-time, in-house Caprice designers in Pirmasens. Because of our growth, we work constantly with global trend forecasters and data scientists, specialising in UK and European retail analytics and consumer insights. Ultimately, we want to appeal to women who value quality with a high sense of fashion but who have also found their own classic, personal style.
How often do you launch new lines, and what are your bestselling designs? Tell me about your recent campaigns.
Caprice launches a new collection every six months. We begin with the Start Up collection in November and May, followed by larger main collections in January and July, respectively. The Start Up collection consists of a mix of both reworked bestsellers from previous seasons and completely new designs. Retailers react positively to this part of the collection because of the offer of earlier delivery dates and the temporal price advantages.
What trade shows do you attend, and which ones work best for you?
We present our full collection at Pure, Moda, Harrogate Fashion Week and the London Shoe Show in Kensington, as well as at several regional exhibitions. Customers can also visit our London M25 showroom or make an appointment with us directly. Caprice is also present at the Micam in Milan, Garda and Gallery Shoes in Düsseldorf.
What makes the company such a success?
Caprice strongly believes in being a partner of the retail trade, and therefore we don't sell directly to the public. In times of great challenge and uncertainty, you need partners you can rely on. We believe in exceeding customer expectations, and we will keep focusing on continuously improving the quality of our shoes. So every Caprice customer, whether a retailer or a consumer, can be certain that they will receive a high-grade, quality product.
T: +44 (0)7734 247 669